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Apr 16, 2018 - 2:53:06 PM
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956 posts since 1/16/2010

I have been meaning to do this for some months now, but...being a new dad and working man...and not a professional musician, its been on the back burner...but here it is. I've had this banjo for almost 20 years, and the majority of its time was spent in the case because it was such a DUD. Zero volume, zero tone, hard on the hands to play. It had the same poor design and set-up from the Vega factory that many others have had, specifically a 1/4" gap in the neck heel to rim fit. Some examples sound great just from the factory, and then there are banjos like this one that are embarrassing with the Scruggs name on it, seems like there was much variance and randomness in the Q/A dept. in the final years of Vega.

Either way, I sent mine to luthier Chris Cioffi in Springfield, Tennessee for a complete tear down and restore, specifically with a neck heel rebuild in mind. He addressed and corrected several things in addition to the heel/rim fit...and SON....this introvert of an instrument has been completely changed into an animal. We chose to remove the metal plate that the allen adjusting screws butt up against, which some folks claim shouldn't be done, but having it gone isn't holding this banjo back any. I also had Chris drill the peg-head and install a set of custom order Danny hoppers cam style D-tuners, it just didn't seem right not having them on a Scruggs. The differences in tonal qualities and volume are monumentous. It's piercing and bright and has power behind it, where before it did not. And throw in a proper set up with a 5/8" Veerman Bridge with 1/8" action, its super easy to play. I couldn't be more proud of it. I've included some before and after photographs. Enjoy!

Dow


Apr 16, 2018 - 2:57:56 PM
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956 posts since 1/16/2010

Here's a before restoration, and after restoration sound clip. I'm not a professional anything here.....especially not a photographer, i feel like the video doesn't represent fully the great sound of the banjo, it sounds a little harsh and tinny, I believe that is the recording device. It is a beast in person, just compare the before and after sound clips.


Apr 16, 2018 - 2:59:57 PM

VPS

USA

144 posts since 3/29/2004

Cool! I always wanted to play one of those that has been set up properly. I didn't realize it was that invasive a job. Your guy does great finish work from the looks of it.

Sound clips would be pretty neat if you're set up for it......

EDIT-Looks like we were typing at the same time

Edited by - VPS on 04/16/2018 15:02:04

Apr 16, 2018 - 3:24:21 PM

604 posts since 12/27/2012

Holy Cow ! Great transformation on that 5. Great pickin too.

Apr 16, 2018 - 3:47:52 PM
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VPS

USA

144 posts since 3/29/2004

It does sound good. So powerful it blew his beard clean off!

Apr 16, 2018 - 5:24:55 PM

1947 posts since 9/25/2006

Those are wonderful banjos. You are quite a skilled man.

Apr 16, 2018 - 5:30:27 PM

Jbo1

USA

567 posts since 5/19/2007

Wow, what a difference. The first video seems like you are pulling notes from the banjo, the second sounds like they are ready to jump out. And I was wondering how you would fill the gap. Beautiful work, and really nice playing.

Apr 16, 2018 - 6:04:30 PM

rbfour5 Players Union Member

USA

794 posts since 11/9/2010

Holy cow!

Apr 16, 2018 - 7:07:49 PM

10935 posts since 10/30/2008

Well done. I'll add only that not ALL of the Vegas of that period had a neck gap THAT big! I have a 67 Scruggs II and the neck gap is negligible, as is. You certainly can't see all those bolts and screws in the gap.

Apr 16, 2018 - 7:22:46 PM

956 posts since 1/16/2010

Thanks very much everybody. I'm mighty proud of this banjo now. With the solid heel to rim reconstruction, those old allen set screws are not longer functional, but they are there...only for appearance. And the lower coordinator rod was also moved further down, which is visible in some of the photos. It was so close to the upper rod that the washer associated with it was covering up the allen screws, not sure how it could have been adjusted like that anyways? Either way.....overall not bad for a tubaphone...eh?

Dow

Apr 16, 2018 - 7:28:57 PM

564 posts since 6/3/2013

The old ads for them state that the banjo was designed by Earl Scruggs. Obviously Earl wasn't a Luthier. So the ones that turned out good were probably made after Earl left the shop. It sounds like it is up and running now. I will post a clip of mine in a couple of days.

Edited by - dupreejan on 04/16/2018 19:33:33

Apr 17, 2018 - 4:09:49 AM

1310 posts since 2/16/2017

Wow. That is dramatic. The first clip sounds like you are playing underwater.

That is an unbelievably bad neck to pot fit…I can’t imagine an instrument leaving the factory like that…and with Earl’s name on it.

Congratulations for saving that banjo, and that’s some nice playing.

Apr 17, 2018 - 5:13:39 AM
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564 posts since 6/3/2013

quote:
Originally posted by FlyinEagle

Wow. That is dramatic. The first clip sounds like you are playing underwater.

That is an unbelievably bad neck to pot fit…I can’t imagine an instrument leaving the factory like that…and with Earl’s name on it.

Congratulations for saving that banjo, and that’s some nice playing.


Obviously easy money was the only driving force. Too bad Earl did'nt have the same belief as General Robert E. Lee had, when a major Life Insurance Company offered him a substantial sum of money, in exchange for Lee's endorsement in a Company ad. Lee declined and wrote back stating "I cannot accept financial payment for services not rendered".   

Apr 17, 2018 - 10:08:31 AM
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956 posts since 1/16/2010

Jeff, I wouldn’t believe an instrument could pass an inspection and leave a reputable factory in this condition either...but it sure wasn’t a fluke. I know of at least 5 others that somehow managed to be built like this and find their way out into the world. But like Dick said, not all of them were like this.
Dick if you’re reading this...I’ve been wondering how many Scruggs models you have documented on your spread sheet now? I’d be interested to see the spread sheet for fun.

And thanks for all the nice comments about my playing everybody ...I’ve never had a teacher, never used a metronome, have very poor right hand technique and positioning, can’t read a lick of notation, which I’m embarrassed about...but it is possible to sound good still even with all those negatives.

Apr 17, 2018 - 10:11:31 AM

717 posts since 12/8/2006

That banjo did NOT leave the factory with that heel/pot gap. The prior owner just had no idea how to adjust those screws and nuts. HE was screwy and nutty. Paul

Apr 17, 2018 - 10:28:15 AM

956 posts since 1/16/2010

I wasn’t there, and I’m mighty young, but I’m pretty sure it left the factory with a gap, based on the design I believe they all did. Whether it was 1/8” or 1/4”...any kind of gap still not optimum for sound transfer. Ya, the metal plate and the screws transfer sound...but not like wood to wood. I’m bias, but I’ve never heard a Vega bluegrass banjo sound this good....except for Sonny’s from back in the 60s...his hands and instruments were magical though.

Apr 17, 2018 - 10:38:08 AM

945 posts since 1/31/2011

Nice. Amazing what a professional setup will do. I always thought I was good but sent min for fretwork and while there, a tweak for some buzzy RR spikes. What was returned was a completely different banjo, all for the better.Congratulations, it sounds great and nice picking.

Apr 17, 2018 - 2:54:45 PM
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10935 posts since 10/30/2008

I think Paul may be on the right track, anyone who ever took the neck off one of these banjos (for whatever reason) and then put it back on, well, it would be easy to do it "wrong".

But, if there are 5 such "clunkers" loose in the world, maybe they had someone green cutting heel angles...

And for the record, Earl's statement "actually T, I designed it..." well, let's just say I file that under "M" for "marketing", with a huge grain of salt. The design of the banjo is "mostly" the old Vega Moderne pot, with the more modern Vega Pro peghead shape, metal coord rods and neck adjustment instead of a square stick. Earl might have specified something, but EVERYTHING on the Earl Scruggs model was already in use by Vega in the Modernes, Pros and Voxes (inlays, gold, engraving and paint job). Nothing against Earl. He might have made choices from a variety of Vega designs that were placed on the table.

Apr 17, 2018 - 3:12:17 PM

956 posts since 1/16/2010

Ya Dick I’m just not sure. I know you fellas that were playing these new back in the 60s know what your talking about. My luthier gave it a proper set up after he received it from me, and it still had the gap. I guess it gets old hearing these Vega gap complaints...maybe only a few duds slipped through the cracks? Regardless...they were still a very desirable quality banjo and in the right hands, dynamite!

Spread sheet?

Apr 17, 2018 - 3:15:15 PM

956 posts since 1/16/2010

I forgot to mention...I read somewhere where Earl’s “designing” it was just his influence on the neck shape/thickness.

Apr 17, 2018 - 3:20:15 PM

10935 posts since 10/30/2008

I started the spread sheet mostly to capture Sonny Osbornes, then I figured well, I see a lot more Scruggses so I'll track them also.

I have 5 Sonny Osbornes on the list.

37 Scruggses.

1 Bobby Joe Fenster!

It will take me some work to delete/hide some confidential info in a couple of the columns, that owners have been kind enough to give me under condition of confidentiality.

I'm always happy to add an instrument I don't have. Glad to check the list for anyone to see if I do or don't have one they're interested in.

I know there should be tons more Scruggses out there. Only another 5 or so Osbornes.

Texican, did you send me your info? Did I already ask for it?

Apr 17, 2018 - 3:33:18 PM

182 posts since 4/2/2009
Online Now

Just curious...did these come with 1/2 bridges? And if so did folks use the Allen screws to push the neck out/up so that the banjo would use a higher (5/8?) bridge? Was it because the screws were used for the "wrong" reason and not only to slightly tweak the neck position?

Apr 17, 2018 - 5:41:26 PM

564 posts since 6/3/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Texican65

I wasn’t there, and I’m mighty young, but I’m pretty sure it left the factory with a gap, based on the design I believe they all did. Whether it was 1/8” or 1/4”...any kind of gap still not optimum for sound transfer. Ya, the metal plate and the screws transfer sound...but not like wood to wood. I’m bias, but I’ve never heard a Vega bluegrass banjo sound this good....except for Sonny’s from back in the 60s...his hands and instruments were magical though.


I got mine in used in 1972 and it was just like yours. I just in the last 3 years started to try and improve it. The neck warped right after I got it, and everything else was just as you described yours. It even had a 1/2 inch bridge, and the action was still high. It always sounded shrill and thin. When Mark Hinckler made the new neck he set the action at 3/32nd. at the 12 th fret with a 9/16th. Snuffy Smith bridge. It played like silk. But after  about a year I decided it was too low. I put on a 5/8th bridge which raised it up, and I lowered it by adjusting the coordinator rod. It is perfect now. I lined the inside of the resonator with tin foil to create more volume.

Edited by - dupreejan on 04/17/2018 17:54:34

Apr 18, 2018 - 7:28 AM

956 posts since 1/16/2010

Dick, I believe you have my info, not 100% positive. Check for serial number A-11682.

Dow

Apr 18, 2018 - 9:04:47 AM

TLG Players Union Member

USA

1489 posts since 10/11/2004

A new & different head would have improved it tremendously , but the heel fit sent it over the top. They all need the heel fixed.

Tom

Apr 18, 2018 - 4:54:47 PM

956 posts since 1/16/2010

quote:
Originally posted by TLG

A new & different head would have improved it tremendously , but the heel fit sent it over the top. They all need the heel fixed.

Tom


Good point Tommy. That fiberskyn II head looks neat, but it was probably the worst head that could have been on there for the bright piercing sound I was after. If anybody wants that old head...its for sale $20! I'll never use it...11" 

 

I'd like to find an old 5 star 10 15/16"........anybody? 

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